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Outdoors notebook: Search on for spotted skunks locally

| Monday, July 29, 2013, 10:48 p.m.

The hunt is on for a special kind of skunk in Pennsylvania.

Last year, biologists studying Allegheny wood rats in Fayette County caught a spotted skunk several times in live traps.

“It apparently had a taste for apples and peanut butter,” said Cal Butchkoski, mammologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Spotted skunks — so-called because of the four to six broken stripes or “spots” on their backs — are about one-third the size of their striped cousins. They're primarily a southern species.

Butchkoski said spotted skunks hadn't been seen in the state for probably 40 years prior to last year's discovery. They'd never been known to exist in Fayette County, he said.

Biologists are trying to figure out if the skunk seen then was a wandering loner or one of several in the area.

Shorthanded?

Rumors have been circulating that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, facing a budget shortfall, might hire no, or at least fewer, seasonal employees next year. Those people typically cut grass at commission-owned lakes, help to install docks, maintain launches and more.

Commission spokesman Rick Levis said “there have been proposed reductions in seasonal employee budgets.”

But it's too early to say what may come of those talks, he said.

“As there are several legislative funding initiatives under way right now which could directly affect those tentative plans, it is premature at this time to state which and how many positions would not be funded,” Levis said.

Fox fears

Game Commission wildlife conservation officer Gary Fujak said he's been dealing with a large number of misguided concerns about red foxes in his Allegheny County district this year.

Numerous homeowners have spotted the animals on their properties and been worried about rabies and pets. Foxes can carry rabies, Fujak said, but feral cats account for more cases.

He's never, in 14 years, had a case of a fox killing a family dog of any size, he said.

Boating business

A new National Marine Manufacturers Association report says recreational boating supports 964,000 American jobs and 34,833 businesses, generates $40 billion in annual labor income and drives $83 billion in annual spending. Pittsburgh saw a total economic impact of $498.7 million.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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